Photo by Tim Spyers/Icon Sportswire
Welcome back to Buy & Sell, where in this week’s episode, I check up on old fantasy friends, look at a trio of weird catchers, and hate Cardinals fans being happy and excited about anything, apparently. I hope you took my advice and scooped Max Muncy last week! If not, check your wire right now, as it may not be too late, but if he’s not around, here are some other guys that can fill that fantasy void.
Matt Olson (1B, Oakland Athletics) – Mashley Olson is making a comeback. He frustrated many an impatient owner after a brutal April that left them feeling like the old lady in Shrek trying to sell the “talking donkey” that wouldn’t talk, but he’s regained the magic, hitting .306 with 7 HR and a .306/.367/.667 line over the past 21 days. xStats suggest his production thus far is right in line with where it should be, and we know from last year that this is a guy you want to own when he’s seeing the ball well. He should be owned and started right now in all leagues while the homer barrage continues.
Daniel Palka (1B/OF, Chicago White Sox) – Pop-pop, whiz whiz, oh what a relief he is. Palka-Seltzer hasn’t given any owners heartburn, as he’s hitting .304 with 2 Homers over 13 AB this past week, for a season total of .283/.315/.557 with 6 Homers and 2 SB in just 111 PA. So why in the blue blazers is he not playing every day on the White Sox, sitting for Adam Engel and Charlie TIlson? Despite his excellent season line, xStats continues to up the ante, with an even-better xSlash of .287/.313/.585. While his average is likely to regress with his swing-at-everything approach, with this massive power (10th-best Barrel% in MLB) plus some speed, he needs to be owned in all 18-team, and 15-team, deeper 12-team batting average leagues, and is a viable streamer and matchup play in 10-team average leagues. Even in deep leagues he’s widely available as he’s still just 4.2% owned, that’s way too low. Mamma mia, that’s a spicy meatpalk-ah!
Kevin Pillar (OF, Toronto Blue Jays) – Unlike most of the others on this list, Pillar’s ownership rates have been plummeting after a prolonged slump that has tanked his season batting average from .300+ to below .260. But if he’s on your wire, nabbing him would be Pillarceny. He himself has been quite a thief on the basepaths, with a perfect 9-for-9 success rate. But the real reason I recommend him is that his contact profile has changed, and he suddenly looks more like a high-average hitter, with a much improved xSlash of .293/.332/.454. It seems the major change is in his hard contact, with a career best 38.0% rate, topping his previous best last year of 27.3% There still is some risk of batting average downside, with a Swstr% over 10% and a career-worst Frazier-ian IFFB% of 22.6%, but the combination of double digit power with plus average and 20+ SB ability makes him a must-own in 12-team batting average formats and more of a Pillar of your team than trendier speedsters (cough cough Mallex Smith cough).
Ben Zobrist (2B/OF, Chicago Cubs) – Zorilla returns! He’s hitting a somewhat shocking .306/.392/.465, and it’s not all fluke either, as his xSlash of .287/.376/.438 is still plenty good, especially in OBP leagues. Despite having just turned 37, he’s posting an 11.4% K rate that’s 2nd-best over his career, though his 2nd-worst 7.0% Swstr% (though that’s still quite good) indicates he’s slipping a bit, and his 2.7% Barrel% leaves much to be desired from the power department. At 46.2% owned, everyone’s jumping back on the hype train, but maybe pump the brakes a bit. He’s a fine add in an 18-team or 15-team format, but he’s not really more than a streamer or utility backup in 12-team OBP leagues since the power and speed of old are never coming back and a good batting eye can only take you so far. This far, which is pretty good, all things considered!
John Ryan Murphy (C, Arizona Diamondbacks) – I’ll be honest, when I saw what he’s done in the majors this year, I really thought he was Peter O’Brien and also it was 2015. He’s already hit 8 Murphbombs in just 91 AB for a very power-heavy .261/.284/.598 line. I figured he must be lucky since Murphy has never hit for close to this kind of power, but my eyes cartoon popped out of my head at his xSLG of .641. That’s nearly the slugging percentage of J.D. Martinez! Sure enough, his Barrel% is 2nd-best in baseball at 14.3%, though his 89.7 mph avg eV and merely good 94.2 mph FB/LD eV suggest that this level of production won’t be sustainable. I then assumed he’s selling out for his power, but his solid 27.4% O-Swing%, 84.7% Z-Contact% and 9.6% Swstr% suggest he should keep a good K rate for a catcher and a better walk rate. Instead, it’s his 61% FB% (with a GB% of just 17%) combined with all-fields contact and a 47.6% Hard Contact rate. The power is quite exciting at such a depleted position, and while his ownership rate has jumped from 0.6% to 7.0%, it should be well in the double digits. I can count on one and a half hands catchers I would rather start right now in fantasy (at least in batting average leagues), so pick him up in all 18-team and 15-team, and heck, I’ll even recommend him for 12-team leagues. Time for some SummerSlam with Good Ol’ JR.
Franmil Reyes (OF, San Diego Padres) – You wanted power, you got power! Just power. He’s hit 6 homers in 59 AB, which I’ll let you extrapolate over a full season for yourselves. That pop is no mirage, as his 94.7 mph avg. eV is 6th best in the majors, with fantastic FB/LD eV of 98.8 mph and a 10.2% Barrel%. Of course, the 35% K rate makes him look risky, but I have reasons for optimism. He actually has a surprisingly decent O-Swing of 27.2%, and a Contact% of 73.8% (11.1% Swstr%) that suggests his K rate should be closer to 25% than 35%. With his hard contact on all batted balls, that may be enough for him to hit for a passable average with power that plays even in Petco. He’s currently owned in just 7.3% of leagues, and he really should be owned in all 15-team and deeper 12-team formats, where he may become your best Fran.
Max Stassi (C, Houston Astros) – If your bid on Murphy was Rejected, then you may be feeling fat and Stassi. So sorry for referencing a 11-year-old Youtube video, I just had to. Stassi has a far more pedestrian Barrel% of 6.4% but his exit velocity of FB/LD of 100 mph even is 3rd-best in baseball, right behind Stanton and Gallo! Before you get too excited, I noticed his profile is quite similar to another catcher… Mike Zunino. I don’t know, maybe you consider that a good thing, he’s quite a polarizing dude. xStats seems to agree, as it poo-poohs Stassi’s .273/.346/.505 line with a Freddy Kreuger-ish xSlash of .213/.292/.449, leaving him with only power remaining. That said, Max does have playing time for the foreseeable future with McCann getting his knee drained (eww), and that exit velocity leaves plenty of upside for that Barrel% to improve, so teams looking for power at C can use him in two-catcher formats, and 18-team leagues. At 9.4% owned, he’s been more popular than Murphy, but to take Max over JR after reading this would be Stassinine.
Austin Romine (C, New York Yankees) – Yeah, I don’t like recommending backups. I also don’t like players hitting out of their dang mind being backups, but here we are. Joining the club of weird mid-career former prospect catcher renaissance, Romine has hit a whopping .375/.463/.625 .312/.398/.494, which is not nearly as amazing, but you still can’t scoff at a catcher hitting .300. Unlike the other two catchers though, Romine isn’t really hitting the ball that hard, with a pedestrian 90.9 eV and a 5.9 Barrel%. Interestingly, he’s hitting all batted balls at similar velocity, so despite a below-average FB/LD eV, his eV on grounders is top 20 in the MLB, which may explain the high average. Unfortunately, even though he’s hit .524 over the past 21 days, he’s also had 21 AB over that span. That makes him hard to use outside of AL-only and two-catcher formats, but he can be a matchup play and streamed while in the lineup in 15-team and even 12-team leagues for both AVG and OBP. until he can get a much-deserved opportunity for regular at-bats.
Joe Panik (2B, San Francisco Giants) – I don’t just like him for having a rather similar last name to me. He was activated from the DL this week and has run the ground hitting, hitting .333/.455/.389 in 18 AB over that span, a line that should make most owners in batting average and OBP salivate. His production thus far has the xStats seal of approval with an xSlash of .303/.362/.421 which plays in all leagues but especially in OBP formats. While he still lacks more than 10-homer power, the batting average skill is more rare and power more replaceable than it was earlier in his career, and this may be the time to cut your losses with a struggling middle infielder like Odor for the unsexy but reliable Panik production. Pick him up in all 15-team leagues and 12-team batting average leagues.
Harrison Bader (OF, St. Louis Cardinals) – The numbers look refreshing, but I’m not sure if I should drink the Baderade. He’s been celebrating his 24th birthday in style, hitting .350 with 2 HR and a SB over this past week to raise his season line to a smooth .270/.342/.450 with 5 HR and 6 SB in just 109 PA. But he may be due for a hangover, as xStats gives him a much weaker xSlash of .235/.311/.330, and his 87.9 mph eV and 3.6% Barrel% indicate that his power so far is too quit to legit. Of course, the speed seems real, and with his youth and increased playing time, it gives him more leeway from a fantasy perspective, but a slump could dry up his playing time in a hurry. At just 8.6% owned, He’s a fine add in 18-team formats and worth streaming in 15-team, but with the hype he’s generating, you’ll probably soon wish you flipped Harrison to a suitor and Bader farewell. Yeah, that pun doesn’t work so well with Bader being a guy, but I’m sticking to it anyway.
Mallex Smith (OF, Tampa Bay Rays) – Especially considering he just got moved to the leadoff spot, you may think I’m crazy. You’d be right, but that doesn’t mean I don’t have a point here. Mallex continues to be over-owned by speed-desperate teams even after his average has dwindled from the mid-.300s down to .260, but that doesn’t mean it can’t go lower. His .269/.339/.354 may look okay, but what lies beneath is a curdle-inducing xSlash of.221/.296/.284. Yeah, that’s not a good thing when your expected slugging percentage looks like a batting average. While you might argue that his speed makes him a natural high-BABIP type that breaks such formulas, I’m not buying that with a 82.7 mph eV that even Omar Narvaez looks down on. His 6.5 speed score this year isn’t even that great, and his 11 SB come with 6 CS, a success rate that may cause more red lights on his lone source of value, where’s he’s a zero or negative everywhere else. He’s just a slower Billy Hamilton, so in 12-team formats and even some 15-team formats, don’t even hesitate to give him the Mall-axe.
Yairo Munoz (SS, St. Louis Cardinals) – The biggest disappointment since learning that there’s no such thing as a Gyroball is learning that there’s no such thing as Yairoball. He’s made quite a splash with a jump to 8.3% ownership rate that rivals Bader, after the 23-year-old shortstop hit .372 with 2 Homers and a stolen base over 42 AB the past few weeks. Not bad for being yanked out of the minors to fill in for DeJong. But that’s where the good news ends, as his ..298/.344/.439 line is a thin candy shell around a pooptacular xSlash of .212/.264/.335. And unlike Hader, Munoz’s 1 Stolen Base comes with 3 Caught Stealing, so he’s not so likely to continue to get the green light on the bases. If you can trick a league mate into being mesmerized with his youth and flip him for a Descalso, an Eduardo (either one really), or pretty much any other starting shortstop, you’ll be the one who Munoz best.